This photo of my grandfather Frederick John Neave was taken in 1915 soon after he signed up in the 48th Battalion Royal Australian Army to go to WW1. His enlistment papers are copied below.
This week we commemorate the end of the War to end all Wars. And I remember one person – my grandfather. It is in the small remembrances that we grasp the full story.
My father was born in 1916. From the dates, I think it is possible he did not know my father (who bore the same name) had been conceived before he left for Europe. On his sign up records he indicated that he did not want his wages to go direct to his wife/family.
I think he and his young fiance Dorothy left England to start a new life in Australia. He joined up to fight and went back to Europe. As far as I know his wife Dorothy, my dearly loved grandmother never returned to England.
My grandfather died young – I barely remember him. I was told he never really recovered from his wartime injuries including being gassed. He was a carpenter, a skill he passed on to my father and then to me when I became a builder myself for a time.
My grandfather was injured and left for dead in no-mans land on the Western Front. The Germans rescued him, put a plate in his head, and he ended the war in a POW camp. He was well cared for I think. Like others in the trenches he was gassed, and suffered afterwards because of this.
My grandmother who sailed from the UK to meet up and marry him, was soon left to her own devices to raise one, and then two sons – the second Alf. He probably did not return to Australia until well after 1918. By which time he had two sons, and Dorothy had not been sent any of his ‘wage’ as far as I know, but this may have been adjusted once he found out he as a father.
How many of us wish we had known the questions to ask our parents/grandparents/great grandparents while they were still alive?
Questions I would have liked to ask:
- How did my grandmother Dorothy manage to support herself and her two children during the war?
- Who helped her/supported her
- When did my grandfather find out he was to be a father the first time
- When was Alf conceived?
- What was it like to be left for dead in no-mans land – could I ever have asked such a question? Would he have answered?
- Did my Father and Alf know more about this story? Too late to ask either of them.
- What is on his death certificate? How did he die?
- What was he like?
- We know the horrors of WW1, what was it like to return home and survive.